Program Particulars: Biology of the Spirit

Program Particulars

*Times indicated refer to online version of audio

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(02:10–04:30) Music Element

"The Multiples of One" from Awakening, performed by Joseph Curiale


(02:29) Book about Death

Nuland's How We Die: Reflections on Life's Final Chapter was awarded the 1994 National Book Award for Nonfiction.

» Enlarge the image Sherwin Nuland and Krista Tippett speaking in Chautauqua, New York. (Photo: Mitch Hanley)

Sherwin Nuland and Krista Tippett speaking in Chautauqua, New York. (Photo: Mitch Hanley)

(02:50) Audio Clip from Chautauqua Address

Each year the Chautauqua Institution presents a series of lectures based on a theme for the week. The audio clip was taken from Nuland's August 22, 2005 address, "Brain, Mind and Spirit: The Wisdom of the Human Body":

Here we are with our 75 trillion cells, it's been estimated. There are about four million cell divisions every single second. You're working so hard while you're sitting here. And when cells divide — of course it's impossible for the DNA to replicate perfectly each time, so little mistakes are made, you know, this is how mutations arise. The DNA repair enzyme is a molecule, it's a complex molecule. It travels like a little motorboat, up and down the DNA molecule. It finds errors, snips them out, corrects them, and puts the right thing back in there. This is the ultimate wisdom of the body.

(03:49) Quote from Nuland's The Wisdom of the Body

The epigraph to Nuland's 1997 book, The Wisdom of the Body — which was later retitled How We Live — was excerpted from Book X, chapter 8, of Confessions by St. Augustine of Hippo:

Men go forth to wonder at the heights of mountains, the huge waves of the sea, the broad flow of the rivers, the vast compass of the ocean, the courses of the stars; and they pass by themselves without wondering.

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(04:38–05:10) Music Element

"Golden Hours" from Another Green World, performed by Brian Eno


(06:27) Nuland's Writing on His Depression

In Lost in America: A Journey with My Father, Nuland recounts his father's life and the power his father held over him. As part of his coming to terms with the legacy that he would bear as an adult, Nuland discusses his depression in the opening chapter:

I have never read a single textbook paragraph on the subject of depression. I have never looked at a sentence written in later tranquility by a recovered sufferer. I do not need to learn about depression from the pages of a book. I have had my own. The solitary torment of a depressed mind eludes any attempt to make it apprehensible to those who have not experienced it. And even for those of us who have endured those desolate months or years, no matter the generalized similarities of the depression, each of us has suffered uniquely, and alone. Neither vivid description nor the empathy of others can pierce the darkness of the long night. And yet, after depression lifts, it can only be remembered but not retrieved—thank God it cannot be retrieved! Just as physical pain loses its intense reality once it has been eased, the anguish of profound melancholia evades even the most determined attempts at clear perception when its dreadful grip has relaxed. It goes to some underplace where it can be seen through a glass, darkly—but not face-to-face. Depression resists being called up again, unless its own tortured purposes determine that a proper time has come to exert authority once more. Then, enveloping reason in a foreboding of ill, its all-pervasive fog rolls back in as though it had never left, to suffocate undisturbed thought in its own terrifying, familiar way. Could a recurrence of depression give itself voice, it would speak in the muffled and mocking tones of a vengeful enemy. It is not my purpose here to describe my depression or to make it palpable to others. Instead, I have a different intent. I am trying to return to memory; perhaps memory can fill the empty places in my understanding, and bring me closer to the entire truth about my life.

To delve deeper into the topic of depression and its spiritual implications, listen to On Being's "The Soul in Depression" in which poet Anita Barrows, author Andrew Solomon, and Quaker educator Parker Palmer speak about their personal experiences with depression and how they have made sense of its effects.

(11:14) The Concept of Wonder

The passage Krista cites that sparks the discussion about "wonder" appears in Nuland's How We Die: "The human spirit is the result of the adaptive biological mechanisms that protect our species, sustain us, and serve to perpetuate the existence of humanity."

In the On Being program "Science and Being," geneticist and Anglican priest Lindon Eaves embraces the notion of "wonder" but warns us about using the term "wonder" interchangeably in religious and scientific conversations:

You've got to be a bit careful. I mean, many, many times you get a phone call which says, "Dr. Eaves, come and give a talk at our church, you know, about science and religion." And the person on the end of the phone will say something like, "Well, I'm sure you share my view that when I look at a flower I'm so struck with wonder." And I'm saying to myself, "Yeah, I'm also struck with a lot of very interesting questions." The danger with words like "wonder" is that they are used in ways that are designed to preempt a real conversation about what's going on, and that's when I get a bit uneasy, when people sort of say, "Well, the foundation for religion is wonder." I'm not sure that's true, actually. I think the foundation of religion is trying to just make sense of the mess in which we find ourselves living half the time. And it's also — the foundation's also the fact that we've evolved to sort of, to be like this. I don't know whether there's a God out there in that sense, but I think for some reason nature or nature's God has blessed me with a genetic propensity to find that an interesting question.

(12:08) Definition of Homeostasis
Homeostasis is a fundamental trait of living beings in which an organism's internal environment is maintained as a steady state in order to preserve its genetic material. In humans, this internal environment of the body is primarily composed of fluids such as blood plasma, tissue fluid, and intracellular fluid. These systems oppose change and seek out equilibrium.

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(12:44–13:28) Music Element

"Sonata III: Grave (Mulier, ecce filius tuus)" from Haydn: The Seven Last Words, performed by Emerson String Quartet


» Enlarge the image Illustration of the brain

Illustration of the brain.

(13:17) Reading from The Wisdom of the Body

In the introduction to The Wisdom of the Body, Nuland writes:

Notwithstanding the tragedies that humankind has visited on itself individually and collectively, and the havoc we have wreaked on our planet, we have become endowed nevertheless with a transcendent quality that expands generation upon generation, overcoming even our tendency toward self-destruction. That quality, which I call spirit, has permeated our civilization and created the moral and esthetic nutriment by which we are sustained. It is a nutriment, I believe, largely of our own making. As I define it, the human spirit is a quality of human life, the result of living, nature-driven forces of discovery and creativeness; the human spirit is a quality that Homo sapiens by trial and error gradually found within itself over the course of millennia and bequeathed to each succeeding generation, fashioning it and refashioning it—strengthened ever anew—from the organic structure into which our species evolved so many thousands of years ago. It lives while we live; it dies when we die. Whatever else of a man may remain to join the consciousness of eternity, this magnificence I call the human spirit does not exist a moment beyond the moment of death. It is neither soul nor shade—it is the essence of human life.

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(14:34–14:53) Music Element

"Sonata III: Grave (Mulier, ecce filius tuus)" from Haydn: The Seven Last Words, performed by Emerson String Quartet


(14:54) The Human Cortex

The Virtual Hospital Web site provides informative dissection images of the cerebral cortex with corresponding labels of each part. Also, the Web site for the PBS-produced feature, "The Secret Life of the Brain," provides a wealth of information about the brain as it develops from an infant to elderly adult, and features three-dimensional maps of the brain and its corresponding anatomy. And, to see comparative images of the brain with selected examples of certain brain diseases, visit "The Whole Brain Atlas" at Harvard Medical School.

(17:50) Reference to Natural Selection

Natural selection is a process in which a living organism adapts to its environment by selectively reproducing changes in its genetic makeup. According to Charles Darwin, an organism does so in order to increase its chances of survival and proliferation. Those organisms that don't adapt quickly enough are eventually weeded out, and evolution occurs as a consequence of this process.

» Visit the website for our program "Evolution and Wonder: Understanding Charles Darwin."

(18:16) The Value of Beauty

In The Wisdom of the Body, Nuland writes about the value of beauty that can be found in our own biological makeup as it can be in a poem. Listen to the reading here (RealAudio, 2:41).

Our lives march to the molecular beat of our tissues. Our spirits sing to the music of our biology. Perhaps the greatest feat of the humanizing process is the recognition of beauty, both the beauty that we find around us and the beauty we can create. Beauty in and of itself would seem to be of no direct consequence to the DNA's survival needs (nature has provided other ways of attracting members of the opposite sex), and that alone makes its recognition one of the supreme accomplishments of the human mind: Beauty of image, of sound, and of thought give us the sense of enrichment, even of spirituality, that goes well beyond our constant seeking of mere survival and the most elementary forms of gratification and pleasure. The human spirit and its perpetual search for beauty are the defining characteristics of our humanity at its best. Think of poetry. Its most fundamental characteristic is in the line, however constructed; the line is the tissue of poetry. Like a tissue, it exhibits repetition and variation. Although any of its words, like any cell, is insignificant when taken by itself, its presence in the line is essential to the cadence and the meaning of the whole; it therefore demands attention in its own right. Every word is the precise word—every pause is the precise pause, whether indicated by the voice or in the punctuation. Each depends for its significance on the entire poem, and at the same time each gives its own significance to the entire poem. The whole gives meaning to each constituent part and to the specific location of that part within it. Is this not true of every part of the body, perhaps even of every cell? It is precisely the right kind of cell, but standing alone by itself without context, its work has no meaning. The various elements of a poem combined—are organized, are integrated, are unified—into the complex organism we behold. The poetic organism lives because each of its words and pauses and punctuations live. True of a poem, true of a man. We create a poem in our own image.

Over the ages, philosophers and scientists have discussed the poetic beauty of mathematics. In Quarks, Chaos, and Christianity, physicist John Polkinghorne emphasizes that, to his former professor and colleague Paul Dirac, mathematics was more than a tool giving human beings the ability to understand the physical universe. It was an instrument of beauty:

I suppose one of the greatest scientists I've ever known was Paul Dirac, who, for more than thirty years, occupied Newton's old professorship in Cambridge [Lucasian Chair of Mathematics]. He was one of the founding fathers of quantum theory, and he spent his life looking for beautiful equations. You might find this a rather odd idea, but mathematical beauty is something that those with an eye for such matters can recognize quite easily. Dirac looked for beautiful equations because, time and again, we've found that they're ones that describe the physical world. Dirac once said that it was more important to have beauty in your equations than to have them agree with experiment! Of course, he didn't mean that it didn't matter whether or not the equations fitted the facts, but if there was a discrepancy it might be due to not solving the equations correctly, or, even, that the experiments might be wrong. At least, there was a chance that it would all work out in the end, but, if the equations were ugly … , well, then there was no chance at all.

When we use mathematics in this way—as the key to unlocking the secrets of the universe—something very strange is happening. Mathematics is pure thought. Our mathematical friends sit in their studies and they dream up, out of their heads, the beautiful patterns of pure mathematics (that's what mathematics is really about, making and analyzing patterns). What I'm saying is that some of the most beautiful of these patterns are actually found to occur, out there, in the structure of the physical world around us. So, what ties together reason within (the mathematics in our heads), and the reason without (the structure of the physical world)? Remember, it's a very deep connection, going far beyond anything we need for everyday survival. Why is the world so understandable?

(20:43) View of Good and Evil

Orthodox Jews view each human being as entering the world without the burden of sin, whether it be personal sin or the sin of one's ancestors, albeit that doesn't mean a child enters free from sin. Sin — in Hebrew het, which literally means "something that goes astray" — comes about through human inclinations, the yetzer, not being properly channeled. Rabbinic texts often refer to this as yetzer hatov, the good inclination, and yetzer hara, the evil inclination. It is not until a child's thirteenth year that the yetzer hatov appears to help develop a person's moral sense and balance the childlike longings of yetzer hara.

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(21:14–21:48) Music Element

"Rushing" from Play, performed by Moby


(22:28) Order in the Book of Genesis

In the Christian and Jewish traditions, the first chapter of the first book of the Bible, Genesis, describes God creating the universe and shaping order from a formless void. Here are the opening lines to this text:

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep; and the Spirit of God was moving over the face of the waters. And God said, "Let there be light"; and there was light. And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, one day.

(23:40) Eros Versus Thanatos

In his book, Nuland describes the ancient Greek philosophy of love and death acting as counterpoints to one another. Listen to an edited reading (RealAudio, 2:04) of the following passage from The Wisdom of the Body:

» Enlarge the image A closeup image of nerve cell in the cerebral cortex shows the axon and its dendritic branches where messages are relayed to and from the brain.

A closeup image of nerve cell in the cerebral cortex shows the axon and its dendritic branches where messages are relayed to and from the brain.

Responding to sensory input from the body and its surroundings, delivered over incoming fibers and via chemical messengers, the human brain has, I believe, engaged itself in the instinctual battle between stability and chaos, echoing up from its deepest cellular self. That battle is expressed in the psychological conflict between Eros and Thanatos—the forces of love (and therefore life) against the forces of death instinct. Because the two are irreconcilable, the central nervous system of man has had, since the time it originally came into existence with the birth of the first Homo sapiens, to conjure with itself—to try various combinations of circuitry and chemistry, and to turn to its excess reserve capacity in exploratory ways—until it became what it is today, a vast machine works of intellect, spirituality, and even neurosis. It might be pointed out, and properly so, that all of the foregoing presupposes a state of constant improvement, and therefore presents Pollyanna's view of the mind and its potentialities. But my definition of the human spirit is not restricted to the sublime qualities developed within our species. It includes, as well, those other characteristics of which we are far less proud, the baser qualities in all that is subsumed under the rubric of humanness. If there is an antonym for everything we customarily associate with spiritual, it must surely be mean-spirited. The same adaptive use of circuitry and molecular interactions that allows humankind to perform the mental gymnastics leading to our finest accomplishments is also in thrall to our baser instincts. Like all adaptations, some are maladaptive. The maladaptations, the conflict between order and chaos, as well as the imperatives of living in societies in which individualistic drives must be restrained in the interest of community—these are the stuff of antisocial behavior and neurosis. This, too, is part of humanity. The very instability of the multitudinous mechanisms that maintain our homeostasis is reflected in the instability and ambivalence with which we view our fellows and the universe, but especially ourselves. Echoing his inner physiology, man is engaged in a constant struggle to maintain the equilibrium that permits daily living. The conflict between constancy and consistency on the one hand and chaos and destruction on the other is mirrored in the mind's equally persistent struggle between the goodness that is in us and the dark drives of anarchic catastrophe. That luminous quality of reason that we value so highly is precariously perched on the unsettled knife edge between good and evil. The human mind being some 200 million years younger than the mammalian body to which it can trace its origin, the quality we might call mental homeostasis is not yet as effective as its physical counterpart. We function not only physically but mentally too, in a crucible of conflicting forces; we continue in stable emotional life only because a degree of balance is achieved by the internalized morality that is sustained by our individual and societal equivalents of enzymes and other regulatory mechanisms. Sometimes we lose the uneasy equilibrium we have attained with so much effort. The result is mental illness, injustice, and the maleficence to which we give daily witness. My rabbinic teachers first made me aware of the Talmudic teaching that man lives in eternal conflict between the yetzer hatov and the yetzer hara, his good and evil inclination. Civilization began and persists because the maintenance of what might be called social homeostasis, and therefore a civilized society, demands that the forces of equilibrium—the forces of the good—win out. But the history of the twentieth century and the events of which we read in our daily newspapers tell us that this is an ideal too often unattained. Society's struggle, like ours, never ends.

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(24:04–24:30) Music Element

"My Squelchy Life" from Nerve Net, performed by Brian Eno


(24:21) Reading from The Wisdom of the Body

This extended version of the passage in the program was excerpted from the chapter, "The Blood Is the Life," in The Wisdom of the Body by Sherwin Nuland:

Always the purpose of treatment is only to restore nature's balance against disease. There is no recovery unless it comes from the force and fiber of one's own tissues. The physician's role is to be the cornerman—stitch up the lacerations, apply the soothing balm, encourage the use of the fighter's specific abilities, say all the right things—to encourage the flagging strength of the real combatant, the pummeled body. As doctor's, we do our best when we remove the obstacles to healing and encourage organs and cells to use their own nature-given power to overcome. We have always known this. Every system of so-called primitive medicine I have ever encountered views disease as the imbalance of certain factors, whose proper interrelationships must be reestablished if recovery is to take place. The ancient heritage of Western scientific medicine is no different. Hippocrates and his followers inherited from earlier healers the belief in the four humors, whose equilibrium maintains health: blood, yellow bile, black bile, and phlegm. Although we have long since abandoned those seemingly fanciful conceits, their symbolism remains, and some of us have begun to wonder whether they will prove, after all these centuries, to be more than symbols. We speak nowadays of such things as hormones, and transmitters, and tissue factors floating around our bodies, and we have even come to introduce terminology that sounds eerily familiar, as though emerged from some cobwebbed cranny in the long-forgotten cellar of our history—such as humoral-mediated immunity. I have spent the adult years of my life being nature's cornerman. I have provided it with whatever boost was needed, cheered it on, and felt the exhilaration of watching its formidable powers wheel into action once I have helped remove the impediments. An inflamed organ is excised, an obstruction is bypassed, excessive hormone levels are reduced, a cancerous region is swept clean of tumor-bearing tissue—and the wrongs are redressed, thus allowing cells and tissues to take over the process of reconstituting equilibrium. Surgeons are no more than agents of the process by which an offending force may be sufficiently held at bay to aid nature in its inherent tendency to restore health. For me, surgery has been the distilled essence of W. H. Auden's perceptive précis of all medicine: "Healing," said the poet, "is not a science, but the intuitive art of wooing nature."

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(26:14–28:05) Music Element

"Suite for Flute, Clarinet and Piano" from Music for a Sunday Afternoon: American Chamber Works for Flute, Clarinet, Piano and String Orchestra, performed by Laurel Ann Maurer, Russell Harlow, and John Jensen


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(28:47–29:33) Music Element

"When April May" from Adams Cox Fink Fox, performed by Rick Cox


(29:47) Terms for Soul

Ancient Greeks often used the word psyche to refer to the Western idea of the soul, where the soul is separate from the body; whereas, nephesh, the Hebrew term for soul, is defined by Laurie Zoloth, in a On Being program on cloning, as "beingness." In "Science and Being," Anne Foerst, a computer scientist and former theological advisor in the MIT Artificial Intelligence Lab, describes the Jewish concept of nephesh as something that emerges in the relationship of humans with other human beings and with God:

I think the body — I mean, again, take the Hebrew term nephesh for soul, which is not the Greek term of soul as something away from the body, but nephesh is a kind of emergent property, something which emerges in interaction between people and between people and God. So soul is not something which is in one individual person. Soul is everywhere there where community is alive. I mean [my interest in this], it's also, of course, part of being German. We live with the memory how persons, neighbors, friends, relatives basically within a very short period ceased to be persons. Everyone knew that they were still humans, but the personhood was gone. They were not perceived as persons with dignity anymore.

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(31:56–32:52) Music Element

"Where We Lived" from Spinner, performed by Brian Eno and Jah Wobble


(32:45) Reading from How We Die

In an apartment in the Bronx, Nuland shared a bedroom with his grandmother for eight years. During this time he would watch the health of his beloved "Bubbeh," as she was called in Yiddish, deteriorate. Nuland tells the story of his grandmother's decline in the chapter, "Three Score and Ten," from How We Die (following is an extended version of the reading in the program):

» Enlarge the image Sherwin Nuland and Krista Tippett speaking in Chautauqua, New York. (Photo: Mitch Hanley)

Sherwin Nuland and Krista Tippett speaking in Chautauqua, New York. (Photo: Mitch Hanley)

It must have been after my mother died that I first began to be conscious of just how ancient Bubbeh was. Since earliest memory, I had amused myself from time to time by playing idly with the loose, unresilient skin on the backs of her hands or near her elbows, gently drawing it out like stretched taffy, then watching in easy languor that made me thing of molasses. She would slap my hand sharply when I did this, in mock annoyance at my boldness, and I would laugh teasingly until her eyes betrayed her own amusement at my feigned disrespect. In truth, she loved my touch, as I loved hers. Later, I became aware that I could produce a shallow pit in the tissues of her shin simply by pressing the lisle-stockinged skin hard against the bone with my fingertip. It took a long time for the pit to fill back in and disappear. Together, we would sit silently and watch it happen. With time, the pits became deeper and the filling-in period grew longer. Bubbeh moved from room to room in slippered feet and with great care. As the years passed, the walk became a shuffle, and finally a kind of slow sliding, the foot never leaving the floor. … Slowly, her vision, too, began to fail. At first, it became my job to thread her sewing needles, but when she found herself unable to guide her fingers, she stopped mending altogether, and the holes in my socks and shirts had to await the few free evening moments of my chronically fatigued aunt Rose, who laughed at my puny attempts to teach myself to sew. (In retrospect, it seems hardly possible that I would one day be a surgeon; Bubbeh would have been very proud, and very surprised.) After some years, Bubbeh could no longer see well enough to wash dishes or even sweep the floor, because she couldn't tell where the dust and dirt were. Nevertheless, she wouldn't give up trying, in a futile effort to retain even this small evidence of her usefulness. Her persistent attempts to clean became a source of some of the small daily frictions that must have made her feel increasingly isolated from the rest of us. In my early teens, I saw the last traces of the old combativeness disappear and my grandmother became almost meek. She had always been gentle with us kids, but meekness was something new—perhaps it was not so much meekness as a form of withdrawal, an acquiescence to the expanding power of the physical disablements that were subtly increasing her separation from us and from life. … About five years before her death, Bubbeh could no longer make the long walk to the synagogue, even with both grandsons to help her. Relying largely on her still-intact long-term memory, she recited the liturgy at home, sitting by the open window as she had done every Saturday morning during all the years I knew her. After a few years, even that became too much. She could barely see the sentences and her memory for the prayers learned in her youth was giving out. Finally, she stopped praying altogether.

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(34:28–34:55) Music Element

"Where We Lived" from Spinner, performed by Brian Eno and Jah Wobble


(36:58) Epigraph from Lost in America

Nuland begins his book, Lost in America, with a quote attributed to Philo of Alexandria:

"Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle."

(40:27) Book on Maimonides

Nuland has published a book on the well-known 12th century rabbi, Maimonides, also known by his acronym, Rambam (Rabbi Moshe Ben Maimon). Maimonides, a great Jewish philosopher and physician who questioned the Torah, composed the Mishneh Torah, a book that intended to guide Jews on how to behave in all situations by reading the Torah without having to spend large amounts of time searching the Talmud.

» Enlarge the image Galileo facing the Roman Inquistion by Cristiano Banti (1857).

To learn more about Galileo's discoveries and his trial before the Holy Congregation of the Catholic Church at the convent of Minerva on June 22, 1633, visit The Galilean Library's examination of the events and manuscripts.

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(41:26–42:11) Music Element

"Prelude from Suite No. 2 in D Minor" from The Cello Suites: Inspired by Bach, performed by Yo-Yo Ma


(42:15) Reference to John Polkinghorne

Physicist and theologian John Polkinghorne tells Krista in "Quarks and Creation" that God did something much more clever than create a deterministic world. Rather, the world has the freedom to make itself:

Well, if the world were clockwork, then I suppose you'd have to hope God had designed the clockwork and wound it up in such a way that things wouldn't turn out too badly. But 20th century science has seen the death of a merely mechanical and merely clockwork view of the world. It came first of all through quantum theory. At the subatomic level, quantum events are not precise and determinate. They have a certain randomness to them. They have a certain cloudiness to them, so that that process isn't clockwork. And we've learned, of course, from chaos theory, the "butterfly effect" — very small disturbances producing enormously big consequences — that even the everyday world described by the sort of physics that would have been familiar to Newton isn't as clockwork as people thought it was. So the world is certainly not merely mechanical. And I think, actually, we always knew that because we have always known that we are not mechanisms. We are not automata. We have the power to choose, to act in the world. It's a limited power — we can't fly — but we have the power of agency. And if we can act in the world, then I think there's no reason to think that God can't act in the world as well. So I think that 20th century science has loosened up our view of the physical world. It's no longer a piece of gigantic cosmic clockwork. It's a world in which we can conceive ourselves as the inhabitants and acting in it and helping to bring about the future. And I believe also in God. So my answer will be that scientists can pray. Not, of course, as magic, but as cooperating with God, if you like, to bring about the best for the future.

» Enlarge the image James Watson and Francis Crick in front of their large-scale model of the double helix structure. (Photo: A.C. Barrington Brown)

James Watson and Francis Crick in front of their large-scale model of the double helix structure. (Photo: A.C. Barrington Brown)

(45:10) Reference to Watson and Crick

James Watson and Francis Crick are attributed with discovering the "double helix" structure of DNA and confirmed that DNA carried the genetic code that was passed down from generation to generation in 1953. In 2003, PBS' Nova produced a documentary, "Secret of Photo 51," which investigates the important role that molecular biologist Rosalind Franklin's X-ray photograph played in Watson and Crick's discovery and why she wasn't credited.

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(46:22–47:21) Music Element

" Hymn for Ginsberg" from Unspeakable, performed by Bill Frisell


(47:21) Audio from Chautauqua Address

Following are Nuland's closing remarks from his lecture, "Brain, Mind and Spirit: The Wisdom of the Human Body," given at the Chautauqua Institution on August 22, 2005:

It is my spiritual self that makes me human. It enables me to reason, to sublimate my instinctual drives, to be of use to society, and to love in a way that only members of my species can love. But it also enables me to do harm, to scheme against the interests of others, and to so misinterpret the unconsciously recalled traumas of my childhood that I become depressed, anxious, or a danger to society. The human spirit can be the high road to the fulfillment of my greatest hopes, but it can be the grim pathway to my self-destruction. Either way, it is the transcendent product of my body and its wisdom, and of the most complex structure on the human planet: the three-pounds of human brain. Thank you very much.

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(48:27–49:06) Music Element

" Hymn for Ginsberg" from Unspeakable, performed by Bill Frisell


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(49:07–50:29) Music Element

"Rushing" from Play, performed by Moby


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(50:29–51:41) Music Element

"My Squelchy Life" from Nerve Net, performed by Brian Eno


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was a clinical professor of surgery at Yale University, where he also taught bioethics and medical history. His books include How We Die, Lost in America, Maimonides, and How We Live: The Wisdom of the Body.